Salve Tapuio

It’s been awhile.

I don’t have too many followers (read: none) so I kinda doubt many people noticed. But I haven’t posted anything in almost a year.

In that time I moved back full-time to Tapuio and started teaching at a little church 6 km down the mountain. I didn’t really have proper internet access. Just the cell phone service that is both expensive and slow.

I also became very depressed. The destruction here in Tapuio has accelerated. The municipal government constructed two new roads, both irregular, both affecting my water supply. Landowners completely razed property, both by saw and by fire, leaving the ground bare and exposed to the hot tropical sun, drying it out.

It grew hot. Trees died. Springs dried up. Rain didn’t fall. Landowners brought in even more cattle. The occasional storm rolled through, dropping no rain. With no blocks of trees to cut the wind, it howled through, uprooting trees and bananas, breaking power lines.

It all sounds apocalyptic, doesn’t it? But it’s real. It’s what happened here.

All this and I haven’t even mentioned the poisonings, the hunting, the intimidation, the vandalism.

I stopped caring. I came to the conclusion that all this is a lost cause and I should move as soon as possible, move to a place where people actually do care about the land, not just how they can exploit it.

I figured it would take about a year to sell and move on. During this time, I remained somewhat active on facebook posting photos of the burning, posting about the water crisis, posting about what is driving all this destruction.

A student recommended I contact the local prosecutor’s office, so in January I did, opening a process against one of the worst destroyers in Tapuio. It wasn’t the first time I had gone to the prosecutor’s office, but it looked like this time they might take me seriously.

And they did. They investigated and while investigations and verifications are still ongoing (everything takes time in this country) it’s beginning to look like action will be taken.

A few weeks ago, a hunter fired shots on one of the mountains here. It was night so I grabbed my flashlight and went out to see if I could scare the hunter off. I saw him walking up and down the opposite mountain with his flashlight so I shone my flashlight on him, following his movements, hoping that would be enough to scare him off. I then turned off my flashlight and waited to see what he would do.

I guess he went away because that was the last I saw of him. But while I was waiting, I heard a noise in front of me. I turned on my flashlight and saw a paca about 6 feet in front of me. It had come to me seeking safety.

Mangoes are falling all around my house. In recent years they have just fallen and rotted on the ground. There was nothing to eat them. Or perhaps there was enough to eat elsewhere, without coming in closer to my house.

This year, they are all gnawed, the seeds eaten. Paca. Beautiful paca are eating the mangoes around my house.

And not only paca. I found one mango had been carried up into a tree and eaten there, meaning opossums or porcupines.

Iraras go for walks down the road in the afternoons.

Arapongas fill the air with their monotonous bell-like song.

Butterflies, hummingbirds, armadillos, spiders, insects of every color shape and size, monkeys, lizards, seriemas, they are all hanging out at my house. I don’t know if this is because there just isn’t much land left for them, or if it means there are more of them, or if they are trying to tell me not to go.

The truth is, I don’t want to go. This place is beautiful. It isn’t stunning. There are certainly places much more beautiful. But it is beautiful. And it is unique. If I had the money, I would buy out the other landowners (everyone would sell for the right price because nobody here really cares for this place).

Some people want to turn Tapuio into a municipal park. I am not one of the supporters. All this would do is hand over supervision of this area to agencies already charged with the responsibility of supervision. It might stop the agriculture, but it wouldn’t stop the hunting. Worse, as pressure for land and water increase in this region, it could possibly be opened up and destroyed at some later date.

A single private reserve would be much better, more secure. Or the establishment of a (very) small artist colony: 7 houses in all, no dogs, no agriculture beyond a garden plot at each house, everything totally organic. These are only two of many possible options.

I don’t want to leave. I love this place. And sometimes it feels like I am the only one who does. The other day, the guy who does the most destruction here came to my house to confront me about the prosecutor’s investigation. “I was born here,” he shouted at me.

Yes, he was born here. And in all his 30 some odd years, he never learned to love this land. His culture taught him the land is his servant. His religion tells him he has dominion over everything. His objective is simple: get everything he can before the entire area turns into a desert and nothing is left.

The other day I posted the following on Facebook:

Umas semanas atrás alguém me falou que #Tapuio está tão degradado e tão fragmentado que talvez nem valha tentar recuperar, reflorestar, salvar. Ontem e hoje, o Estragador de Tapuio subiu, gritando igual demônio como sempre faz, para estragar um pouco mais e fazer a terra temer a presença dele. (Sem exagero, quando subiu, os saguis fugiram na outra direção e a araponga, que tem tempo cantando e cantando, sumiu.) Devo admitir, desanimo. Às vezes acho que todos têm razão e que seria melhor simplesmente abandonar o lugar, salvar a minha saúde e Tapuio se vira. Mas os saguis hoje fugiram para minha casa. A noite que um caçador veio matar, uma paca veio a mim para buscar proteção. Irara, tatu, jacupemba dormem em volta da minha casa. E hoje encontrei esse amarílis ao lado da casa. Como posso abandonar o que nunca me abandonou? #salvetapuio

A few weeks ago someone told me Tapuio is so degraded and so fragmented that it might not be worth trying to recuperate it, reforest it, save it. Yesterday and today, the Destroyer of Tapuio came up, shouting like a demon like he always does, in order to destroy a little bit more and make the land fear his presence. (Without exaggerating,  when he drove up, the marmosets fled in the opposite direction and the araponga, which has been singing for quite some time now, disappeared.) I must admit, I am discouraged. Sometimes I think everybody is right and it would be better to just abandon this place, save my health and leave Tapuio to fend for itself. But today the marmosets fled to my house. The night a hunter came to kill, a paca came to me seeking protection. Iraras, armadillos, jacupembas sleep around my house. And today, I found this amaryllis blooming beside my house. How can I abandon a place that has never abandoned me? #salvetapuio

Salve Tapuio


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